February 28, 2011

Winter Jewels Single Hellebores

As promised, here are pictures of some single hellebores bred by Ernie and Marietta O'Byrnes and photographed during my Official Plant Fanatic trip to their nursery last weekend. Again, I'm guessing on names since all of these plants were growing out in their gardens and I didn't check name tags. The one above is probably an 'Apricot Blush'.

If you want to see the nursery gallery of single hellebores, click here. The O'Byrnes have decided to focus exclusively on the hybridizing and growth of their Winter Jewels lineup of single and double hellebores to meet increasing demand. So these gorgeous plants will become easier for gardeners to find and buy in coming years.

I have a lot of admiration for plant breeders, as it takes a combination of science, art and hard work to hybridize new plants. I'm fascinated with english roses from David Austin, siberian irises from Schafer and Sacks at JPW Flowers, New Millenium delphiniums from Dowedeswell, heucheras from Terra Nova nursery, and gorgeous daylilies and hostas from so many breeders. Plus the countless bulb choices developed by dutch growers over the years, all those new echinaceas and clematis . . . and surely I could think of more if I spent the time. Not every new plant introduction lives up to its advertising, but many of them prove to be wonderful additions to our gardens.

These two dark heucheras must fall into the 'Black Diamond' group. White Flower Farm is offering 'Black Diamond' in its spring catalog, along with 'Cherry Blossom' and 'Golden Sunrise' from the O'Byrnes.

Heronswood doesn't offer Winter Jewels, but has a large collection of single and double hellebores for sale. I'm especially tempted by their new 'Anemone Smoky Pink', which looks a lot like the pink hellebore in the photo below. I just love those pink ones!

My local nursery carried some 'Golden Lotus' hellebores last year, which are from the double Winter Jewels collection. So I'm sure that plenty of other local nurseries carry Winter Jewels as well. If your favorite nursery doesn't have any in stock, ask them to order some from Terra Nova (who are wholesale only) for you.

By the way, none of these companies have paid me for advertising. Really, that's a laughable thought for my little blog, so I want you to know that my reviews are completely unbiased by anything except my passion for pretty plants!

The picture looks like a 'Cherry Blossom' WJ hellebore, with its clean white and raspberry shades. Currently the Winter Jewels series and many others are seedling lines, which allows for interesting variation but makes it impossible to know exactly what you're getting unless you buy the plant in bloom in person. That is a drawback for any of us who are a little OC about getting exactly what we want. I have read that tissue culture propagation for hellebores has made great strides recently, so I expect that more and more strains will be offered that will be perfectly uniform.

This last photo shows a large pink-flowered clump nestled into ferns in the O'Byrne garden. I'll post more pictures from their beautiful garden - which includes much more than just hellebores - next week. If you want to see my post on the double Winter Jewels hellebores, click here.

February 20, 2011

Winter Jewels Double Hellebores

Here are some photos of the double Winter Jewels hellebores that I saw at the Northwest Garden Nursery in Oregon. I didn't stop to write down names to go with the pictures, and there's variation within each named group, so I'm giving my best guess as to the names. I believe the one above would be 'Onyx Odyssey'.

Here are flowers from the six plants that I lugged home with me on the plane. In the center is an 'Onyx Odyssey', and clockwise from the white 'Sparkling Diamond' you can also see what might be a 'Harlequin Gem', light pink 'Cotton Candy', green 'Jade Tiger', and 'Peppermint Ice'

I had imagined the plants coming in little 4" pots, but the smallest size was a 1 gallon, and most of these were in 2-gallon pots. I removed the pots and some extra soil (though the pots were mostly roots), wrapped the root balls in plastic grocery bags, and carefully packed them into a giant tote bag. Somehow they fit - mostly - under the airplane seat as my carry-on. My arms are sore today from carrying that heavy bag around!

Here are some other pictures of double-flowered types. Above is a 'Peppermint Ice'. Visiting the nursery was quite an adventure. It was out in the middle of nowhere, and by the time I arrived at 10:05 am (5 minutes after opening on the first day), there were already over a hundred people crowded into the tiny greenhouse, picking through potted hellebores.

I think the one above would be 'Berry Swirl'. I spoke briefly with Ernie O'Byrne, one of the owners, and he told me that last year they had 1300 plants out for the first day of their open house. During the two hours that they were open that day, they sold all but 40.

Here is 'Golden Lotus'. Based on my experience, I would recommend that you get there early on the first day if you ever decide to go to their open house. Otherwise there won't be much left.

Here is another 'Golden Lotus'. You can see the variation within named groups, as the first plant has a bit of burgundy around the edges of the petals (tepals), while the second plant is entirely greenish-yellow.

I'm guessing that these next two photos show 'Cotton Candy', though the online photos of CC don't show any quite like these. Many of these hellebores were growing in the gardens surrounding the nursery, so I imagine that not all of them fit into the named groups.

I also took photos of single-flowered hellebores and wider views of the gardens. I'll do two more posts to show all those pictures.

Here is a lovely 'Berry Swirl' plant. I think it might be more sophisticated to admire simple, single-flowered hellebores, roses, peonies, etc. But I can't help but fall for the frilly doubles.

Here is another 'Onyx Odyssey' plant, this one more black than the maroon one at the top of the post. Honestly, I don't think there were any double-flowered plants that I didn't want to take home with me - plus plenty of the singles, too! But I'll have to be happy with my half-dozen . . . and look forward to interesting seedlings in the years to come.

February 14, 2011

Floral Valentines Cupcakes and Hellebore Fest Trip

Happy Valentine's Day! There are a dozen women who work at my husband's office, and this year I decided to do something for them for V-Day. I picked up glass votive holders from Target, several bunches of carnations from the grocery store, and some ribbon. Here they are, all packed in a box-top for easy transport to the office.

They have a nice clove scent and kind of look like cupcakes, except without the calories. At the end I added little black bows for a finishing touch. Now I just need to get my youngest daughter all dressed up in her red-and-black outfit with matching heart-antennae-headband and go deliver them together.

My darling Valentine gave me a great gift this year. After listening to me moon over the gorgeous Winter Jewels hellebores that are bred by Marietta O'Burnes in Oregon and offered to retail customers during just a couple of weekends each year, he suggested I take a little trip next weekend to pick out some hellebores myself!

So on Friday I'm flying and driving to Eugene, Oregon, and on Saturday morning I'll be at the Northwest Garden Nursery Open Garden Days to buy some hellebores and take lots of pictures for blogging. Although a few catalogs offer a Winter Jewel hellebore or two, these plants are seedling grown and exhibit some variation in flower, so you have to pick them out in bloom to be sure of the exact coloring.

Are any of your Oregon bloggers going to make it? If you want to see pictures of these amazing plants, click here for single flowers and here for doubles. Or you can come back next week and see what I've come up with on my little adventure.

I had to add a photo of my delivery-girl helper for flowers and cards today. So sweet!

February 7, 2011

Visions for the 2011 Season

After a large remodeling/relandscaping project in the front yard last spring, I'm planning to take a break from big projects this year and just let things grow. As you can see above, there is plenty of dirt showing in the beds that should be filled in by plants eventually. Then the eye will view groups of plants as flowing masses instead of polka-dots on a brown background. Alas, I'm afraid my 'Otto Luyken' laurels (the dark green shrubs in the photo) are going to be a lot smaller after I prune away the parts that died back this winter.

Here is a 'before' photo of the front, before we added took down the railing, added steps and more beds, and built a stone-based column at the corner. This year I'm not ordering any annuals to fill in, which I'm hoping will help the beds to look less cluttered (but the shrubs and perennials just need to GROW!). I've got hardy 'Blue Moon' wisteria planted at both front corners of the house, and someday it will be big and gorgeous - though probably not this year, sigh. But the 500+ spring bulbs - crocus, tulips, hyacinths, chionodoxa, scilla, and mini-daffodils should put on a great show soon.

Here is the flagstone path on the west side of the house in midsummer 2010. Hopefully by this summer there will be a lot less dirt showing. There are three climbing roses to add some height, though I don't expect them to grow too much this year. Our growing season is just so short that plants take a long time to get big. At least the 'Elfin' thyme is filling in nicely between the flagstones.

Here is one of those climbing roses - 'Teasing Georgia' - along with lavender catmint and golden 'Early Sunrise' coreopsis. I posted a lot of close-up shots of flowers last year. The photo above shows three plants, so I guess it counts as a mid-range shot. But I'm not too excited about any of the wider shots in this post - they just don't look that great. My goal for next year is to take more wider-view shots and have them turn out nicely.

Do you remember how all the 'Pagan Purple' delphiniums (in the rear of the photo above) blew over last year? I bought a bunch of hoop supports and am hoping that they'll provide enough support to keep the delphs upright this year. The hoops aren't as good (or as time consuming) as staking individual stalks, so we'll see if they work very well or not.

Of course I've ordered a few new plants already. I received my 'Jarradale' grey-blue pumpkin seeds in the mail this week (Johnny's Select Seeds), and I fell for the 'Double Click Cranberries' cosmos seeds as well (Park Seed). I can't wait to see the cranberry color. If they don't get sold out, I'll get three 'Medallion' super poppies in the mail (Burpee's), which are a lavender-mauve color. So far I've managed NOT to order a pink 'Woodside Romance' daylily since I'm hoping that my local nursery will have it (but White Flower Farm convinced me that I really need this plant), and maybe I'll get white 'Sunday Gloves' as well. Good thing I have a few new beds to fill in.

Also from Burpee's, I ordered a couple of 'Victoria' rhubarbs. I'm not a big rhubarb fan, though my dad likes it in pies (and I make pies, so he'll like me better now that I'm going to grow rhubarb). My real reason for ordering was that it has such BIG leaves and can handle full sun and zone 5 winters! Our summer air is too dry for most hostas to grow in the sun, and many other large-leaved plants are tropical in origin and not hardy here. I feel pretty clever about this solution to the 'little leaf' syndrome in my backyard beds, and I plan to include it in the designed beds when we finally get the backyard in order.

You remember that my backyard (pictured in these last four shots) is currently a hodge-podge, where I'm trying out lots of plants to find which ones are worth including in the final design in a few years. I'm freely adding to the hodge-podge this year, with three new siberian iris from JPW Flowers: blue 'Over the River', turquoise 'Mister Peacock', and deep violet 'Trim the Velvet'. I also ordered white 'Snow Queen' siberian iris from Bluestone Perennials (can you ever have enough siberian iris? apparently not), along with 'Blue Paradise' phlox, Filipendula 'Flore Pleno', and Campanula 'Birch Hybrids'. And that's all for this year . . . probably.